Diets rich in protein appear to reduce a person's risk of stroke, particularly if it's a lean animal protein like fish, a new analysis suggests.
People with the highest amounts of animal protein in their diets were 20 percent less likely to suffer a stroke, compared with those who ate little to no protein, said study author Xinfeng Liu, of Nanjing University School of Medicine in Nanjing, China.
For every additional 20 grams per day of protein that people ate, their risk of stroke decreased by 26 percent, the researchers found.
"If everyone's protein intake were at this level, that would translate to more than 1.4 million fewer deaths from stroke each year worldwide, plus a decreased level of disability from stroke," Liu said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.
The researchers concluded that animal protein offers more than twice the protective benefit against stroke as protein from vegetable sources.
Stroke experts cautioned against taking the study's findings too literally, however. Many animal protein sources also come with high levels of saturated fats that can increase risk of stroke.
"I don't think this study means to the public you should run out and start eating burgers and red meat," said Dr. Ralph Sacco, chair of neurology at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine. "Focusing on lean protein consumption and/or even vegetable protein is important."
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